Crime Writers in Residence – at home with John Dean

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with John Dean

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

A journalist by trade, I worked as a crime reporter on newspapers for part of my career, which gave me ample material for my crime novels. I ran my own business for 21 years, specialising in magazine journalism, and branched out into creative writing courses. The business closed in March 2020 and I now focus on my writing and writing-related projects.

I have had 19 novels published and am with The Book Folks. I am the creator of the DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris series and, as John Stanley, wrote two books in the DCI Danny Radford series. They are all police procedurals, with the Harris books set in a rural location and the other two series taking place in fictional northern cities.

I have been a Crime Writers’ Association member for sixteen years and am the CWA Libraries Champion in Scotland, speaking up for our libraries and putting writers in touch with them where required.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

I live on a hillside in south-west Scotland and the nearest neighbour is a quarter of a mile away so social distancing and lockdown has been relatively easy for myself and the family. However, as someone with underlying health issues which make me vulnerable to the coronavirus, all of us have been exceptionally careful. My thoughts go out to all those who have been afflicted by the disease and to all those who have been working so hard to support our society.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

I would still be writing (four hours a day on average) but the lockdown means that we only leave our hillside for essential activities, which has had the effect of wiping out our social contact, other than via phone and digitally.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent book.

The Killing Line (The Book Folks) came out in March 2020. A schoolgirl is found dead from a drugs overdose, the second in a few weeks. DCI Jack Harris suspects there is more to the tragedy in the small Pennine town of Levton Bridge. The locals are campaigning for a young offender centre to be closed down and there may be links to the death of the girls. With the townsfolk putting increasing pressure on the authorities, Harris must get results. This is the seventh book in the series but can be enjoyed entirely on its own.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

The Harris books are set in a remote North Pennines valley which creates a strong sense of claustrophobia, which makes for good crime fiction, I think.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

Peter May – a master when it comes to creating sense of place. I appreciate that because, as a writer, I am inspired by a sense of place. Whether it be a gloomy city or a stunning hillside, a glass-strewn council estate or a majestic waterfall, something about my surroundings repeatedly triggers ideas.

I always contend that despite the many elements of fiction, it comes down to a triangle, three things that come together to make the story work right from the off – plot, people and place. Get them right and pace, economy of words, themes, emotions, the lot, fall into line. I know writers who would say it all starts with the story. Others would put characters at the top, but I usually start with the place.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

Go to our local café for a cheese scone!

For more information about John Dean and his books, visit the CRA website.